Eco Flats: net-zero apartments nearing rent-ready
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But beyond building green, Jean-Pierre Veillet, owner of Siteworks Design Build, has plans in place to make sure the building, located at 3395 N. Williams Ave., runs at maximum efficiency even after the tenants move in.
Eco Flats is one of 15 building projects aiming toward net-zero operations through a pilot program launched in 2009 by Energy Trust of Oregon.
"It's one of the furthest along of the projects," said Becky Walker, program manager for Energy Trust's Path to Net Zero pilot. "It's one of only three multi-family projects and the only one renting to tenants."
Path to Net Zero recruits developers willing to aim for buildings that are 60 percent more efficient than Oregon building code requires.
Veillet, who had experience with LEED building and was featured in the New York Times in 2009 for his eco-friendly work on a pop-up store for Portland-based Nau, set out to build a net-zero apartment building with the idea that the less of the building there was, the more efficient it would be. The building's common areas are outside, allowing for more natural light inside the building and reducing its carbon footprint from the outset.
"The best way to save energy is to eliminate the need to consume it," Veillet said. "For thousands of years we didn't have gizmos to regulate the environment. A lot of the building is proper for the geography that we’re in."
Sitting on the North Williams bike corridor, the building trades bike storage for a parking garage. Zipcar will stage two cars at the building. The 18-unit building features an ultra-efficient heating system and will use rooftop solar panels to heat the building's water.
Tenants will pay a monthly bill that includes all utilities and will be able to earn rewards — such as beer at the Hopworks brewery location moving in on the ground floor of the building or meals at local restaurants — for energy efficient habits. Veillet said the rents will be comparable to others in the neighborhood — building a highly efficient building at standard costs to keep it affordable was built into the Eco Flats plan from the beginning.
“If you can build for standard cost, you can charge standard rents,” he said.
The project was 50 percent bank financed with 25 percent coming through Portland Development Commission financing — Eco Flats is in the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area — and the final fourth of funding came from a combination of Veillet’s own backing and a private investor.
Siteworks' next projects include an expansion of the Hopworks Urban Brewery on Southeast Powell Boulevard, aiming to triple its brewing capacity, and a headquarters project for Web agency iSITE Design. The company has nine employees and after two flat years, Veillet sees business heating up in 2011.
As he puts it: "It's back to 2007-style."
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